Abzu is not a video game; it’s a work of art. Keep that in mind when you decide to pick it up- the action is brief, the gameplay simple, and the challenge virtually non-existent. This isn’t your typical PS4 experience, but it is an awe-inspiring journey into the alien world that comprises the majority of our planet’s surface… the ocean. From the magical opening to the breathtaking set pieces scattered throughout and the satisfying ending that leaves you immediately wanting more, you’ll truly find yourself sucked into another realm as you play Abzu, and if you like mesmerizing and therapeutic experiences that are light on action, you’ll love every second of it. Almost everything about Abzu in this regard is perfect beyond a few minor technical shortcomings, but these are fairly few and far between and are really more slight annoyances than glaring issues.
You play as a nameless and virtually faceless scuba diver with no apparent motive for being in the ocean other than to explore the expanse around you. You’ll be helped out by cute little scuba drones and accompanied by a variety of sea creatures both majestic and adorable, and you’ll slowly start to uncover what appears to be the ruins of an ancient civilization scattered along the ocean floor. There are various collectibles to find, including hidden nautilus shells, meditation shrines that allow you to get an up-close look at the ocean life, and spawn points that release new types of creatures into the sea.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you enter the world of Abzu is that the art style can easily be compared to Journey, and that’s due to the fact that both games were developed by the same studio, Giant Squid. The art plays a huge part in the experience that Giant Squid has created- the bright colors and jagged-yet-somehow-fluid design of the ocean floor and its inhabitants are a joy to take in, and when combined with the beautiful soundtrack, it’s hard not to get immersed in Abzu’s world.
The level design is ultimately linear, but each area is expansive enough that you’ll truly feel like you’re exploring and discovering as you swim around and through the ocean. It’s worth exploring to find the collectibles mentioned earlier, though they don’t really do anything for you other than give you more pretty stuff to look at (which is kind of the point of the game anyway). The controls make it easy and fun to explore, too. You use the right trigger to go forward, freeing up the analog sticks to allow you to easily move and look in every direction at any time. The animations are fluid, too, and you really feel like you’re diving. Timed button presses give you a speed boost, and you can barrel roll and flip with ease. If you boost toward the surface, you shoot up above the waves like a dolphin, which is unrealistic but never not exhilarating.